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Aug 12, 2014 03:12 PM

Tipping for popcorn at the movies...? YEP!!!

I went to a recently-renovated local movie theater over the weekend. It's now unique in several ways: they sell beer, wine and mixed drinks, they sell complete meals offered from an Applebees-type menu (app, entree, dessert) and they provide seat-service. In fact, there's no concession stand at all; the only way you can get anything to eat or drink is to order it from a server (prior to the beginning of the movie) or by pushing a "seat- side" service button located at every seat. Heck -- all I wanted for munching during a mid-afternoon showing of "The Hundred-Foot Journey" was a small bag of popcorn. No such thing. Popcorn with "unlimited refills" (just push the service button to request a refill) was $8.50. Add tax and it's up to $9.00. And when the "check" is presented to you, how can you NOT tip? Sucker that I am, I ordered the popcorn anyway, and I must say, the bowl (a REAL serving bowl; not a paper bucket) that was brought over held a very generous serving -- more than two people could finish.

I just wonder how/if the offerings at this new theater will sway my decision about whether to go there. (There are other nearby theaters that show the same movies.) On the one hand, the individual theaters are much smaller than before (Max. capacity ~70 people) and very plush. Comfy leather seats, trays at every seat that make dining easy; cloth napkins and "real" flatware. But I don't go to the movies to eat; I go to see a movie. I can't speak to the quality of the food, but from what I've seen of it, I'd say it compares to Applebees.

For now, I'm still pondering future visits.

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  1. Not only would I be horrified at tipping for popcorn, but the idea of trying to watch a movie in a room where other people are ordering, receiving, and eating meals sounds like a recipe for a terrible film-viewing experience. It's aggravating enough to deal with all the idiots who can't stop texting or yapping to their companions during the show at a regular theater!

    ...and get off my lawn :-)

    3 Replies
    1. re: travelmad478

      Back in the 1980s there was a movie theatre Called Milford Pub and Cinema in Milford, CT that served pizza, burgers, beer and wine at your seats. Seats were pub style with small round tables between them. It was a small theatre and ran mostly arts films or second run. It lasted about 8 years. Always tipped.

      About 6 years ago National Amusements opened a 14plex in the Westfield Mall in Milford. They had two screens that were called 'Directors Halls' Tickets cost $14, instead if 10 at the other screens. There were servers who took food orders from the assorted concessions or in lobby restaurant and served you your meal/drinks at your seat. The seats were plush and oversized with holders for your food/beverage tray. Always tipped the server. You could also bring in food that you bought at the concession and not tip.

      Unfortunately about 3 years ago the location was sold to RAVE and they did away with Directors Hall and the food delivery service. It had been profitable for National Amusement, just not a fit with the RAVE system.

      Disclosure: a cousin manages the 14plex for both owners. I paid for the food but never had to pay for tickets, so I certainly didn't mind tipping.

      1. re: travelmad478

        I'm with you. I go to the movie to watch the movie. I find that it's already distracting enough with the addition of food type snacks already being offered at concession stands-nachos, hot dogs etc. I can't imagine being surrounded with the clicking of "real" silverware, drunks with overly exaggerated whispers ordering more cocktails, a constant stream of popcorn refills, etc.

        If I want to eat dinner while watching a movie it's Netflix time!

        So get off my lawn too!

        1. re: travelmad478

          Well, this place isn't too far afield from your neighborhood, Travelmad. I thought I'd be distracted by people ordering, eating and paying for food during the movie, but most people seemed to place and receive their orders prior to the start of the movie, and checks were "discretely" delivered toward the end. I was also concerned about food aromas "wafting" my way during the movie, but that turned out to not be an issue.

          The seating configuration was obviously considered for food service. There are a total of only six seats across each row: aisle, 4-seats, aisle, 2-seats. So no one is ever more than one seat in from an aisle. That way food doesn't have to get passed along by many people before it reaches its destination. Can you imagine if it WAS? :-)

          Anyway, the check was left for us in a regular check folder; maybe that's why we fell for adding the tip.

        2. Your thread title is misleading. My first thought upon seeing it was tip jars at the concession stand? No tip. I go to the movies and buy something at the C stand or not and go in and sit down with the general public. To me that's going to a movie.

          You sound like you like the "upscale" movie experience but are not sure if you should or not and whether you should tip or not. Well, only posters on an internet discussion board can point you in the right direction.

          2 Replies
          1. re: miss_belle

            There are things I liked about the theater and things I disliked. The dining concept, and all it implied, just took me by surprise. It was pretty clear to me, from the level of service, that a tip was expected.

            I'm not sure what you mean when you say, "only posters on an internet discussion board can point you in the right direction."

            1. re: miss_belle

              The concession stand at one of my regular theater's (yes, it's more of an art house theater - but I wouldn't call it "fancy") has a "bar" section where you can get beer, wine, cocktails and they definitely encourage tipping. But you're not encouraged to tip at the "non-booze" part of it. Now how pouring a glass of wine differs from a 32oz soda.... I dunno. I've never gotten a cocktail and thought about that.

            2. Well, if you don't want to eat at the movies there's no point in returning. We sometimes go to the one in Leawood, KS, which the original AMC concept location in the Kansas City area. They offer a variety of stuff so you can usually find something appealing. Like you I enjoy the comfort and I've never found the food service to be distracting. I enjoy the option of beer or wine as well. Everything I've tried has been fine, but it is pricey because after all it is a movie theater.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Samalicious

                I thought the food prices were in line with an Applebees-type restaurant. But I, personally, wouldn't go to a movie because I wanted to eat there. Makes me wish drive-in theaters were still around. Put the kids in their PJs, BYO food and drink, enjoy a movie!

                1. re: CindyJ

                  Now that I could handle. I am just barely old enough to have experienced drive-ins--I vividly recall going to a double feature of Paper Moon and Play It Again, Sam at the Eatontown (NJ) drive-in when I was about 6. My parents loaded me and my sister, with sleeping bags, into the back of our '65 Dodge Dart station wagon and we all enjoyed the show. If I recall correctly, my sister and I were supposed to be going to sleep after the first picture, but we kept popping up from the way back during the second one anyway.

                  1. re: travelmad478

                    I worked in the snack bar at a drive-in, age 15-17 in the early/mid 70's. Great job, put people still bitched and moaned quarter popcorn and 50 cent drinks. Why do people think they have the right to be a jerk to a 15 year old kid? I'm certain it goes on today, like the kid serving you has a say in the prices.

                    1. re: travelmad478

                      When we were kids, my parents used to take my brother and me to the Paramus (NJ) Drive-in. Years later, when my (now) husband and I were dating, we also went to that drive-in. But that was a whole other thing! :-)

                2. Here's a newspaper article about this new movie upgrade trend:

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: greygarious

                    Interesting, but to me it shouts "gimmick" through and through. $28 to see a movie that'll be on Netflix in a few weeks? And that's just for ONE person. Our seating was in the more "downscale" of the theaters at this movie complex. No reclining seats -- those come with a premium price and children are not permitted, regardless of the movie being shown. But one other point made in the article was this: "“If you’re used to showing up to your theater 15 minutes before the movie starts,” Noonan said, “you’re going to be disappointed.” You can get tickets at the door, but for popular movies, it’s best to reserve ahead online (and, alas, incur a $1.25 “inconvenience fee.” Grrr.)" We arrived about 30 minutes before showtime and were surprised to see how few seats were available -- yes, it's ALL reserved seating. So add another fee for advanced reservations to the overblown tab.

                    So here's where I am right now -- maybe I'd return for the novelty of it, but not because I want the whole dine-in experience. And for the traditional movie-with-popcorn experience, I'll likely opt for one of the other two nearby movie venues with old-fashioned food concessions and comfortable stadium seating.

                  2. If it's the Alamo theater chain, personally I don't mind the experience (including tipping) - but I only go if I want the "full" experience. Prior to the Alamo screenings, they put together sets of clips that relate to the film (like before the new x-men film, it was clips from the old cartoons, youtube clips of people in costume, etc.). And while I'd never get the popcorn (I'd just eat too much), I do enjoy some of their other snacks - though they are in the family of bar snacks (but I will vouch for the fried pickles).

                    But I only go if I want the full experience. Because it is more expensive.